Thursday, January 25, 2018

It's All Downhill From Here

10:31 AM 3 Comments
I made my Montana ski debut two weeks ago today. It was hard and scary and maybe a little fun but the joy honestly came from the satisfaction of accomplishment. I wanted to love it. I didn't, at least not yet, but I have two more lessons to progress.


When I first arrived, I was waiting in The Schoolhouse at the base of the bunny hill. There was a group of fifth graders just finishing up on the hill. Helena has this great program wherein the fifth graders at every elementary school get a day of skiing/instruction and, along with it, a free season pass. It was a large group that day maybe three classes of students, and they were everywhere. There was a girl sitting inside the Schoolhouse who was clearly choosing not to participate. She had thick brown hair and glasses and had that somewhat awkward/not-quite-comfortable-in-my-changing-body look. While her classmates skied, she sat inside with a unicorn notebook, some colored pens, and a little pouch full of fruity lip balms.

Talk about mirrors. I sat there, and maybe even teared up a little, seeing eleven-year-old me, afraid to take physical challenges, afraid to try something that I might not be good at, choosing instead the safe, warm, but not really fun glass windowed space. Eleven-year-old me sitting opposite forty-year-old me. Feeling out of place, too old for the task at hand, a little embarrassed and a lot scared to be unable to do this thing that most of my friends here have been doing since they could walk.


The thing is, I turned out okay. I may not shred it on the ski hill, but I can do lots of other things really well. And at some point in life, I became a risk taker.  I wanted to hug that girl, and I wish I had at least spoken to her and asked her what she loves to do.

Instead, I tightened my boots, pulled on a neck warmer, and faced my fear. It was by no means a resounding success, but I'm glad I finally went outside.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Off the Camera: The Tenth Month

9:38 AM 0 Comments


There are lots of different reasons that I take photos. I take them to capture the way I see something. I take them to record moments in our family. I take them because the light strikes me or because my kid is cracking me up or because I want to print a photo for someone. I occasionally take photos with the intent of writing a blog post on a particular topic.

As to how I take photos, there are two possibilities. I have a Canon SLR that I schlep all over the place. And I have an iPhone. Quite frequently the selfies I take with my iPhone show me wearing my Canon; I like to have both around. I previously had an iPhone 6 that was always full, so I didn't use it much for photography, but I recently upgraded to an 8 and now have more storage (a LOT more storage) and a better camera, so that is getting a lot more use. 


I have the amazing capability to move photos from my Canon to my iPhone via the wifi network built into the camera. Because of this, I can take a photo on my Canon and share it via my phone within minutes. This is a huge improvement over my previous camera, where photos would sit and sit until I had a chance to pull out the card and upload them to my computer.

And yet, photos still sit. Even if I get them off the camera and onto my hard drive, I still am awful about going through, editing, and uploading.

That was a really long and boring introduction to the point of this blog entry, which is just to share some photos that have been sitting on my camera or my hard drive for a while. No theme here, no unifying event, just a handful of photos from October that I feel have a story to tell. I hope you like them.

A ledger from the Butte mines circa 1915. We went to the Butte Silver Bow Archives in search of information 
on my great-grandfather. This book, which was about 3 feet tall, tracked hiring dates for all employees.

Early fall frost in the neighbors' garden.
Many colored tin, just outside Ennis.
Autumn on the Clark-Fork River

My mother, collecting fall leaves in Missoula

Taking at Blackfoot Pathways Sculpture in the Wild. This installation, called Hill and Valley
features over 30,000 pounds of newspapers and 28 lodgepole pines.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Snow Tires

9:15 AM 0 Comments
We got our first big snow of the year on November 1st. It was crazy - on the evening of the 31st we were all over the neighborhood trick-or-treating, it was fairly mild, and the streets were dry. Twelve hours later it was coming down fast and furious. Now, as I've mentioned previously, I don't mind winter temperatures but I am not a fan of winter driving in flat places let alone in the mountains. That said, I went out anyway that morning and slip-slided all the way to the gym. Coming back an hour later was even harder. I made it almost all the way home before I ran into trouble. After turning onto Beattie, which runs uphill at a pretty steep incline, all forward progression stopped. I was stuck.stuck.stuck. I spent about twenty minutes backing up and attempting to move forward, but my wheels just spun and spun. Finally, tearfully, I was able to pull over to the side of the road and hiked the last five blocks to the house. I hated Montana right then. I felt so enormously incompetent, I was embarrassed, and I thought I was going to spend the next six months sitting at home because I couldn't drive in the snow.


(Quick aside: my regular tires were totally shot before I left Illinois. I knew this. I went in for an oil change in mid-August and they told me they were totally shot. But I was losing my ever-loving mind at the time trying to get the house packed and I just didn't have time to deal with it. I fully intended to get new tires with new tread upon arrival in Montana. But I didn't.)

Several hours later, my father-in-law and I drove down to my van to see if he could get it up the hill. Is it terrible that I was elated when he couldn't? He's the best driver I know - the guy flew helicopters, for goodness sake - so if HE couldn't get my van up Beattie then maybe I'm NOT a Montana failure after all. I was so happy!

It took a shovel, a spade, and a bucket of gravel to get the van out. We drove it directly to the tire shop where my beloved minivan, Alexvander Hamilton, was fitted with studded snow tires.

(Quick aside: I had no idea what studded snow tires were. I didn't even know they existed. Sean thought this was crazy, but it turns out that studded snow tires are illegal in Illinois and that's the only place I've ever done any winter driving. So it's perfectly logical that I didn't know what they were.)

Shortly after this debacle I learned that you can also get studded thingamajigs that you can put on your BOOTS so that you can HIKE in the SNOW! What a miraculous invention! As we near the end of November, I am a newly liberated winter woman. My van and my feet have studs and I can go anywhere. Bring it on, winter!